5 Ways Kids Can Use Smartphones for Good
By Haley Hawks
I was born in 1995, and it seemed to me that I was right in the middle of a major technological revolution. I remember when my school went from no computers, to mandatory computer classes, with handwritten papers quite literally a thing of the past. I remember when we went from overhead video projectors to more sophisticated projection screen. Science was leaping and bounding ahead every day. You didn’t want to buy a phone, computer or gaming device because you knew in the next day, or week, or month another competitor would release a better one.
But if I thought my generation was filled with screens, that’s nothing compared to technology our children have today.
According to a study by Common Sense Media teens spend almost nine hours a day online and tweens spend an average of six hours online without counting homework. In fact, 24 percent of teens report that they are online “almost constantly (Lenhart, 2015).” With so much time online, it can be easy for kids and adults to forget their manners, waste time, become apathetic to the reality and pain of others, or even become bullies. We can turn the tide of these disastrous trends!
Here are 5 ways we can teach kids to use screen time to make the world a better place:
- Teach Altruism
A friend of mine once pointed out that the internet is here to stay, which means we should learn etiquette and be actively civil in our internet community, just like our real communities. Too often, people don’t seem to grasp the concept that what happens online IS reality. We must teach our children to interact with care, kindness, and respect as though the people they are interacting with are right there in the room with them.
If they are on social media teach them to:
- Post good content
- Spread happiness by complementing friends and being positive
- Encourage them to join groups that have a purpose they believe in
- Promote Independent Learning
Does your child often forget when homework assignments are due, even when you write them down and remind them? One way to make it easier on both parents and kids is to download an app such as Class Manager that acts as a homework scheduler and planner. There are many great apps like this that make it possible to::
- Enter all assignments
- Link assignments to a specific class
- Set priority lists
- Get notifications when homework is due
Let technology help you in assisting your child to better organize their homework life.
- Volunteer, Volunteer, Volunteer
Have you ever wanted your children to be more involved in social issues? Have you considered using the internet? Just about every type of organization your child can imagine or be interested in is online. Take an evening to research together what sort of causes they are interested in promoting. For example, they could simply check out justserve.org which has many incredible local opportunities. They can:
- Join a movement
- Encourage a movement via social media and in real life
- Become educated and empowered to learn more and teach others
As they become passionate experts, they will influence others too. Let your child grow their fervor for giving of their time and talents.
- See Their Phone as a Tool
Help children to see that their phone is not their friend, not their constant source for entertainment, but instead a wonderful tool for good. Instead of getting on social media, teach them to use apps like Charity Miles which donates money to a charity for every mile you walk, run or bike. This not only encourages charitable giving but also physical health. Another app is Acts of Kindness which gives small suggestions on things you can do every day to make a positive difference. Give your child the ability to change the world today with their device!
- Encourage Online Ingenuity
Your child is a hotbox of new ideas. Kids are constantly seeing and experiencing the world in new ways. We want them to share those bright-eyed first experiences. If we give our children the resources and teach them the way, they can be great instigators for positivity online. The internet needs new positivity and creativity. Our children were born to change the world for better with technology.
But in order for this to happen, we need to point them in the right direction. Before we send them on this adventure, we need to make sure they are prepared to self-monitor their own behavior. As we encourage our children to use screen time for good, they will become better digital citizens and stronger members of society. We can help them to have confidence and to stand for the things they believe with courage, compassion and hope.
For more great ideas on gratitude, connection, and community check out 30 Days to a Stronger Child, available on Amazon.
Also, be on the lookout for Noah’s New Phone, EEK’s next children’s book. Noah is child much like your own who learns some nice and not-so-nice lessons about using technology for good (positive digital citizenship)–coming out later this month!
Haley Hawks has a Bachelors of Science in Marriage and Family Studies from Brigham Young University-Idaho. . She is passionate about learning, especially when it comes to relationships and family life. She hopes to one day be able to educate on a world-wide setting in regards to promoting goodness in the family, and destroying ideals that hurt society.
Landmark report: U.S. teens use an average of nine hours of media per day, tweens use six hours. (2015). Common Sense Media. Retrieved from https://www.commonsensemedia.org/about-us/news/press-releases/landmark-report-us-teens-use-an-average-of-nine-hours-of-media-per-day
Lenhart, A. (2015). Teens, social media & technology overview 2015.Pew Research Center. Retrieved from http://www.pewinternet.org/2015/04/09/teens-social-media-technology-2015/